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Some lawmakers waive pay as Kansas session goes into overtime

Updated: 2013-05-29T00:00:27Z

Some Kansas legislators are waiving their salaries or donating the money to charity as the legislative session heads into extra days to solve the state’s tax policy.

Depending on whether or not it’s a weekend, it costs $35,000 or $45,000 daily right now to keep the session going.

By late afternoon Friday, 20 legislators had signed requests that they not receive their salary, expense allotment or both after the 90th day of the session, said Jeff Russell, director of Legislative Administrative Services.

Friday was the 91st day of the session as legislators grappled with tax policy; they also must finalize the state’s budget. Legislative leadership had set a goal earlier in the year of being finished in 80 days – 20 days short of last year’s session.

Both chambers adjourned after meeting Friday and will reconvene Tuesday after the three-day Memorial Day weekend for the 95th day.

Gov. Sam Brownback said Kansas residents want their legislators to get tax policy right and are willing to accept the annual session going longer than anticipated.

“They’re interested in solutions, even if it takes some overtime,” Brownback told the Associated Press.

Actually, there’s no such thing as overtime, especially this year.

During election or even-numbered years, the Legislature has to pass a resolution to go over 90 days, Russell said. But in odd-numbered years such as this one, no action is required.

The daily cost for a legislative session has three tiers, depending on staffing levels.

At its peak, during the regular session and when all 140 staff members are working and legislators are being paid, it costs $63,000 daily to operate the Legislature.

“That’s full blown,” Russell said. “Everybody here is rocking and rolling.”

After the regular session ends and the veto session begins – which was May 8 this year – less staff is needed because committees aren’t meeting. The cost drops to $45,000 daily.

The 165 legislators are each entitled to $88.66 in salary and $123 for expenses for each day the clock is running.

Legislators are paid for weekends, except during extended breaks. No staff is paid on the weekends, so the only cost is the legislators’ salary and expense allotment – or $35,000 daily.

It’ll cost $105,000 for the three-day holiday weekend – minus, of course, the costs for those who have waived their pay and expenses.

The price tag will resume at $45,000 daily on Tuesday.

On the bright side, this legislative session is well short of the 108 days the Legislature logged in 1973. That was the longest session since 1947, the earliest records available, Russell said.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or at rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on twitter @rickplumlee.

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